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Quo Vadis: Where does an innovative company go next?

David Straker

 

-- Introduction -- Level 1 -- Level 2 -- Level 3 -- Level 4 -- Level 5 -- Limitations/future -- References --

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Level 1: Suppressed

 

Level no Level name Management style Individual approach Critical domain
1 Suppressed Opposing Displacement None / product

 

Frederick Taylor both advanced and froze management thinking with his ‘scientific management’ that focused solely on the task, relegating the worker to the machine. It is perhaps not surprising that Taylor was himself psychologically stunted will all the hallmarks of a disturbed, neurotic, anal-compulsive personality2. His very focus on efficiency blinded him to the inhumanity of many of his proposals, which were deeply unpopular even in his own day.

 

Yet Taylor’s legacy persists, despite the real and well-publicised concerns highlighted by people such as Douglas McGregor3 (Theory X and Theory Y) and Hertzberg4 (Motivation-Hygiene theory). Perhaps it is because it appeals so much to our deep needs for control that many managers still stubbornly resist the notion that people can successfully think for themselves. It also is alluringly attractive for managers to assume that they have greater wisdom and creative ability than their charges. The notion of their subordinates having greater intelligence can be perceived as a threat to be suppressed rather than a skill to be encouraged.

 

Going further back, the blame might even be laid at the door of the Christian church, where the constraints of the scriptures and their interpretation by a controlling clergy forbade innovation for many centuries. In 1634, Galileo was forced to recant his heresy about the place of the Earth in the firmament thus:

 

“I Galileo, being in my seventieth year, being a prisoner on my knees, and before your Eminences, having before my eyes the Holy Gospel, which I touch with my hands, abjure, curse and detest the errors and the heresy of the movement of the earth.”5

 

This ‘Management by Fear’ results in creative abilities being displaced either towards disruptive activities such as strikes and other unhelpful actions or in hobbies outside the workplace which range from flower-arranging to fly fishing. W. Edwards Deming’s exhortation to management to ‘Drive out fear’6 is a critical first step towards bringing innovation into the workplace.

 

What official innovation there is in such Suppressed companies, is very largely product-oriented, contained and focused inwards. Individuals using innovation of any kind are also likely to keep it to themselves, for fear of punishment for stepping outside the rules.

 

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